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And did those knights (no)

13 Nov 19 | Re: Same energy | Link-U-Post

Singing Jerusalem this Remembrance Sunday (of course), I spotted something I should have noticed a long time ago, which is that Blake uses exactly the same three-step strategy as Don Quixote. In full, this is:

  1. Imagine lost golden age that never existed.
  2. Resolve to restore that age in our own shabby and uninspiring time.
  3. Find someone else to carry your stuff for you.

Blake must have been aware. He and Quixote even share a specific antipathy towards mills. The difference, if there is one, is that Jerusalem seems to be implying that the Quixotic mission is a good thing to be on, whereas Cervantes (Benengeli if you like) constantly and directly states that Quixote is mad. Then again, Blake’s protagonist admits his own mental strife, so maybe the rousing tune is masking a more equivocal message, Born In The USA-style.

Multiple interpretations exist of how one should judge Quixote, but mine is that his behaviour, while ill-advised, is morally fine. His final forgiveness is part of what makes Quixote modern: the classics are full of hapless heroes who do wrong by mistake and get punished for it anyway, Oedipus being the handiest example. And it makes Quixote a much more viable role model. With the safety net of forgiveness beneath them, modern-day Quixotes can adopt Blake’s zeal first and then hope (or pray) for the wisdom to direct it, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be blamed too badly if their good intentions lead them astray. If they tilt at windmills instead of ogres. If instead of Jerusalem they end up building Milton Keynes.

Confusion is not an ignoble condition — Brian Friel

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of — Adam Ant

Posted by PHILIP T SMOTHERGILL at 22:20

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